February 19, 1861 | Letter
In this letter from February 19, 1861, H. Thielsen writes to Samuel Reed offering high praise of both his and John R. Boyle's abilities as contractors. He states that he believes the prospects of commencing work in the spring appear "slender," as orders to undertake work on roughly 55 miles of the lines from Ottumwa, Iowa to Chariton, Iowa were withdrawn when the Secession Crisis occurred. He tells Reed that the "character of the work though is what a contractor would call magnificent."
March 8, 1861 | Letter
In this letter from March 8, 1861, John R. Boyle writes to Samuel Reed discussing the prospects for employment on a railroad in the near future. He states that he would prefer working for Mr. Thielsen to working on the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad as he does not believe that railroad will be capable of "doing anything as long as those troubles between the north and south exist." Boyle also notes that he rejected an invitation to work on the Cedar Rapids Railroad, believing it would be better to "stay on our farms than work on a R Road that has no money." He declares that if the troubles between the North and South were settled, there would be more work available.
September 22, 1861
In this letter from September 22, 1861, Anna R. Benedict writes to her brother, Samuel Reed, discussing the drop in prices for farm products as a result of the "national troubles." She states that it "scarce seems possible that this war can last very long." She notes that her family has been practicing the "strictest economy," but still needs to hire help to accomplish all that is necessary on the farm. She expresses surprise at Reed's claim that he has been doing all the farm work himself, but advises him not to sell pieces of his farmland until after the "present panics have passed over."
October 13, 1861 | Letter
In this letter from October 13, 1861, Samuel Reed writes to his wife and daughter while they are traveling to visit relatives in Rock Island, Illinois. He states that there has been no "excitement politically or financially" at home aside from a proclamation by a Captain Danforth of the "we have laid down the lanset and taken up the sword kind."
March 6, 1862
In this letter from March 6, 1862, Sally A. Kendrick writes to Jennie Reed, wife of Samuel Reed, describing her work as a nurse for wounded soldiers at a hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. She expresses political beliefs similar to Samuel Reed as she discusses her hopes regarding the outcome of the war and as she laments the impending loss of her church's pastor due to offense he has given to a few "secessionists in the church."
March 17, 1862 | Letter
In this letter from March 17, 1862, John R. Boyle writes to Samuel Reed discussing their shared opinion of the war as "unrational." Boyle states that he believes "we are decimating and depopulating the country" and expresses worry that there will not be enough work for all of the men once the war ends. He claims that agents from Australia and Canada are encouraging people to emigrate, and proposes that Reed work with him in a future venture.
July 27, 1862 | Letter
In this letter from July 27, 1862, Samuel Reed writes to his wife from Ottumwa, Iowa describing the difficulties of running lines through the "rough and brushy country" of the state with a party of eight men who are "entirely unused to the business." He writes that he hopes conditions will be more favorable further from the Des Moines River or else the work will last into the winter. Reed states that were it "not for the few dollars I can make here more than on the farm I should be tempted to take the first train for Illinois and bid farewell to Rail Roading."
August 10, 1862 | Letter
In this letter from August 10, 1862, Samuel Reed writes to his wife from Center Township, Iowa stating that he feels like he is "on the extreme borders of civilization." He describes the excitement over the war in the area, speculating that if enlistment throughout Iowa were on par with that portion of the state "it will not be necessary to resort to [a] draft." Reed also offers an anecdote of his party's progress just before leaving Ottumwa, Iowa, and notes that a son of Mr. Thielsen, aged 13, has joined his party.
August 12, 1862 | Letter
In this letter from August 12, 1862, Jennie Reed writes to her husband, Samuel Reed, from their home in Joliet, Illinois regarding rumors of a "large guerilla force near Hanibal" [Illinois]. She worries that Samuel may be "captured or killed or carried away a prisoner" and asks him to write her more often to reassure her of his safety. She also discusses the possibility of a draft and the harvesting and sale of the crops on their farm.
August 16, 1862 | Letter
In this letter from August 16, 1862, Samuel Reed writes to his wife reiterating his belief that there is no danger of a draft in Iowa given the large number of volunteers, and hopes that a draft will not be necessary in the state of Illinois either. He also relates the details of his visit to a Baptist church, describing both the building and the congregation as "of very humble pretensions." He tells his wife that there is no possibility of him returning home for a visit until the field work is completed, but that he believes he will be able to get a family pass on the railroad for visitations.
August 24, 1862 | Letter
In this letter from August 24, 1862, Samuel Reed writes to his wife describing the difficulty of his party's work. He states that "the life we are now living would well fit us for army servis," and relates joking with his men about joining the army as engineers, admitting that he "would be the first to back out if a serious proposition of that kind was made to us." Reed also gives an account of where the men in his party are originally from.
September 1, 1862 | Letter
In this letter from September 1, 1862, Samuel Reed writes to his wife to assure them that he is safe from "all [Confederate] moving bands." He also comments on "the Indian troubles in Minnesota," stating that although he knows nothing of them he is not surprised to learn that there have been attacks on "the defenseless frontier on the north west" as there are many "fierce and warlike nations" which would relish an opportunity to attack whites.
September 7, 1862 | Letter
In this letter from September 7, 1862, Samuel Reed writes to his wife stating that he may be home for a visit within three weeks if the field work continues at the present rate of eleven miles per week. He expresses surprise at the fact that the army "from Kansas had retreated from Arkansas" and requests information as to the war's progress in "Virginia and elsewhere." Reed states that most business not pertaining to the army seems to have been suspended, and worries that someone "more ambitious than patriotic" may be able to influence the Union army and assume control of the government as a military dictator.
September 21, 1862 | Letter
In this letter from September 21, 1862, Samuel Reed writes to his wife offering advice pertaining to the affairs of the family farm. He briefly mentions hearing of a treaty made with the Indians, but states that he has "no faith in treaties with them if the war with the south lasts." Reed also states that orders from Mr. Thielsen have caused him to delay his plans to visit home, but that he will return as soon as he can.
September 29, 1862 | Letter
In this letter from September 29, 1862, B.J. Earl, Samuel Reed's brother-in-law, writes to his sister Jennie Reed requesting family news. He describes excitement over the war and enlistment in Pennsylvania and also details the progress of railroad construction in the area. He notes that their sister, Lettie, was forced to leave her home "on account of the Indian troubels in Minna" and asks if Samuel Reed's brother, Erastus Reed, enlisted in the war.
October 5, 1862 | Letter
In this letter from October 5, 1862, Samuel Reed writes to his wife describing the difficulties his party has encountered surveying land in Melrose, Iowa. He writes that two of his men were badly wounded "by cuts with an axe," a creek in the valley has been nearly impassable, the food has become tiresome, and his party experienced a severe rainstorm. He also notes that Mr. Thielsen has informed him of a possible change in the supervision of the railroad and would like Reed to stay on as his engineer if the change does occur. Reed tells his wife that nothing is certain yet and that she should "say nothing about it until more is known."
October 15, 1862 | Letter
In this letter from October 15, 1862, Samuel Reed writes to his wife and family from Ottumwa, Iowa where he travelled to recruit more men for his party after losing all but three to sickness, wounds, or disappearances. He states that it is quite difficult to find "idle men," and describes the extent of the work needing to be done in Ottumwa. He informs his wife that he will not be able to return home for a visit for at least another two weeks.
October 29, 1862 | Letter
In this letter from October 29, 1862, Samuel Reed writes to his wife to inform her that he has arrived in Burlington, Iowa. He describes his overnight trip on the train, stating that he rode all night in his seat as he "did not feel like paying a dollar" for a double booth in the sleeping car. He mentions meeting a family friend from St. Joseph [Missouri] while passing through Galesburgh who said "he may go to Chicago to reside if the war continues much longer." Reed states that "business has been loosely kept" in Burlington, and it will take him some time to get it organized and see to it all.
November 2, 1862 | Letter
In this letter from November 2, 1862, Erastus H. Reed, one of the enlisted brothers of Samuel Reed, writes to Jennie Reed describing his new life as a soldier as "a stern reality." He offers details on his regiment's encounters (or lack thereof) with the Confederate Army, and complains about the hard marching they have been forced to endure. He requests supplies and news, and encourages "Sister Jennie" to write to him as often as possible.
November 20, 1862 | Letter
In this letter from November 20, 1862, Samuel Reed writes to his wife informing her of his return to Burlington, Iowa after a visit home. He states that he resumes his work with "dislike," and believes that "living at home for the past three years has spoiled me for this kind of business." Reed ends the letter with optimism, noting that the winter will not last and "unless the road is extended I don't intend to stay here in the situation I now hold."